In this article I’d like to share some of my top technology predictions for the public sector in 2014. Happy New Year!
2014 will provide considerable opportunity for government bodies to move on from the hype and capitalise on the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace. A solid and secure enterprise mobility strategy for the back office sings to all the needs of the embattled public sector organisation seeking to reduce overheads but maintain services.
This is especially true for organisations that have a large field force such as the emergency services or municipal government. The options for improved efficiency using mobile devices are impressive, from transforming health, well-being and care services delivered to the community in the field, , to police forces being rostered more effectively, to providing health and safety buffers as lone workers are tracked.
Mobile not only plays to the efficiency agenda, it will allow valuable data to be collected in the field, consolidated and then leveraged for planning purposes and as a means to drive national open data policies.
Branded and intuitive technology platforms to engage with citizens on their terms will snowball. Taxpayers will increasingly compare their experience with government, health and emergency service organisations with that they receive from consumer focussed businesses like Amazon. As a result public organisations must take a more proactive approach to branded technology, providing personalised information that citizens need to interact with the state.
Public sector project teams are increasingly expected to prove that there is a significant RoI from implementing new technologies. Added to this is the pressure to keep the life-time cost of technology low. With these twin challenges public sector organisations must turn to technologies that can be cost-effectively adapted to cope with the constant change experienced in the public sector. As a result of the often large cost of change associated with traditional ERP, the well-known heavyweights will continue to struggle.
Big Data & Open Linked Data
The sector has a vast array of data that can drive government, social and commercial success. At its highest level the pay-off is two-fold, firstly to the sector itself and secondly to external companies, organisations, citizens and any stakeholders that have a vested interest in state information.
Public sector organisations can quickly and cost effectively ‘link’ existing data sets to provide new levels of visibility that will enable bodies to optimise operations towards providing the best services with the funds available.
According to Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the inventor of the World Wide Web, Governments put data online to increase citizen awareness of government functions that consequently fosters greater accountability and a downward pressure on costs.
Where there is benefit in doing so public sector bodies can also ‘share’ their open data to support the third sectors and entrepreneurial enterprise.
Cloud Will Reach Critical Momentum
Although still a concern, the fears on the safe-keeping of government data held on cloud-based systems are being outweighed by the potential benefits of cloud and improved security. With budgets still falling public sector CIOs will look more favourably on UK data hosted cloud technology because of lower capital costs, negligible maintenance and the relative ease with which software can be scaled to rising and falling demand.
Momentum For Back-Office Shared Services Will Grow
With the pressure to do more with less, it is now more viable than ever for departments or entire organisations to consider sharing common business processes so that they can do more with less. Following many high-profile failures the sector is learning lessons to deliver successful projects. The technology that underpins shared services needs to be more flexible, strong leadership teams are needed to drive programmes from the top and cultural change must be carefully managed.
Sector Specific Platforms
Health, emergency services, municipal and central governments have specialised operational challenges across a wide variety of services. Opting for general technologies to underpin these services presents a number of potential issues. In most cases there will need to be customisation that will require costly input from vendors or consultants to adapt the technology to the business. These customisations would only prove a short term fix which will eventually hobble future changes in strategy.
Instead the sector will increasingly turn to technology platforms with an ‘out-of-the-box’ local government, emergency services or health template. For technologies like ERP this will mean a sector specific focus on processes, building in good practice so that operations are standardised and only custom when necessary. This does not mean purchasing huge systems, rather picking and choosing best of class technologies that bolt together to meet the specific sector needs of organisations.
Given there are still considerable challenges in the sector, 2014 will continue to be a transformative year for public sector information technology. IT departments will continue to turn to new suppliers to help reduce costs and maintain (or improve) frontline delivery of services. Many governments, BPO suppliers and vendors will also be focussed on delivering the innovative flagship projects that have come to represent a change in emphasis brought about by the economic downturn.